Law School Case Brief
Wagoner v. Exxon Mobil Corp. - 813 F. Supp. 2d 771 (E.D. La. 2011)
Ultimately, a court's role as a gatekeeper does not replace the adversary system. Vigorous cross-examination, presentation of contrary evidence, and careful instruction on the burden of proof are the traditional and appropriate means of attacking shaky but admissible evidence. Proper deference is to be accorded to the jury's role as the arbiter of disputes between conflicting opinions. As a general rule, questions relating to the bases and sources of an expert's opinion affect the weight to be assigned that opinion rather than its admissibility and should be left for the jury's consideration.
Plaintiff Macie Wagoner filed suit federal district court on behalf of herself and as the legal representative of James Wagoner, who died allegedly due to defects in products that contained benzene. Wagoner averred that as part of James' work from the 1970s until 2008, James frequently came into contact with products containing benzene and that as a result, he was chronically exposed to a toxic substance. Among the products that the decedent allegedly used was Liquid Wrench, which was manufactured by defendant Radiator Specialty Co. ("Radiator"), and Varsol, which was manufactured by defendant Exxon Mobil Corporation. Wagoner alleged that as a result of chronic exposure to benzene, James suffered from and eventually died of multiple myeloma (MM). Defendants denied liability and filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that their individual products complied with the labeling requirements of the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA).
Should summary judgment be granted based on design defect claim?
The court granted summary judgment to Radiator on Wagoner's claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturers' Liability Doctrine where, even though the warnings on the product did not convey anything more than a general awareness that a chemical product may have posed a danger, the warnings were adequate to defeat a design defect claim.
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